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The sad truth about any market is that there will always exist people who will take advantage of others. Dubai saw a wave of rental scams a few years back wherein fake real estate companies swindled innocent tenants and landlords of millions of Dirhams. While legislation has been put in place to limit the chance of this type of scam from happening again, it never hurts for anyone to be on his/her guard.
One of the most common and pervasive real estate scams out there is when a fake real estate company places a fake property listing. In this case, the ''agent'' duplicates the details of a legitimate listing on their website. Once a viewing has taken place, they ask the client for a holding deposit while drawing up the contract and deed, which, of course, they never do. In order to avoid this, never work with an agent that is not registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). Always ask to see an agent's license and documentation before you begin the house-hunting process.
Another unfortunately common scam is the ''out of the country'' scam which especially targets expats living in the UAE. This is when the landlord of a certain property listing communicates that he is out of town, is unable to show the property and will mail the keys to you after he has received the advance payment. As a property investor, always insist on inspecting the property yourself. If the landlord or agent is not available, move on and find another agent that is.
Title fraud is another common type of real estate scam that is, essentially, identity theft. In this case, the scammer uses your personal information, or fake documents to assume your identity and transfer the property into their name. They can then take out another mortgage against the property, take the cash and run, leaving you, the real homeowner, liable for the repayment. To best avoid this, ensure that all your personal information is secure at all times and enquire with your insurance provider about identity theft protection of this nature.
• Insist on inspecting the property before signing any contract and deed
• Always ask for the agent's RERA certification and license prior to a deal
• Never wire an advance payment to an agent or landlord you have not met
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Source: Nicholas Baker, Special to Properties
The writer is a freelancer